The Hunger Games: Don't Fall for the Fluff of the Season's Most-hyped Film
Photo Credit: Pop Culture Geek at Flickr
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Today’s burning moral question: Is it bad to enjoy watching a big-screen entertainment featuring teenagers hunting each other for sport?
Answer: Oh, I dunno. Points to be made on both sides. How big is the screen? Bigger ain’t necessarily better when it comes to image quality, y’know!
Certain critics have noticed an alarming “hypocrisy” about Hunger Games: it’s an elaborate showbiz entertainment featuring kids hunting kids to the death that’s all about a dystopian American future in which there’s an elaborate showbiz entertainment featuring kids hunting kids to the death. Scott Mendelson of The Huffington Post is in a real sweat about it:
As a direct result of this conundrum, the picture not only fails as a social/political commentary but becomes an ugly celebration of the very narrative that it should be condemning. By refusing to look directly at its own story and by instead fashioning a convenient morality out of its murderous sporting event, it lets the audience off the hook and even encourages them to enjoy the blood-sport as ‘entertainment’….The Hunger Games is worse than a bad movie. It’s an immoral movie, possibly even an evil one.
We must try to be very gentle with young Scott, as it appears he was actually born yesterday on another planet and only just arrived here. It’s okay, Scotty! We watch this kind of stuff all the time here, and everybody who isn’t already batshit crazy manages to keep movie-killing separate from real-life-killing! Just don’t cheer on the murders of any actual teens out here in the cruel world of five senses, okay? Not the meaty awkward ones who take up space and yammer, just the flat ones up on the screen who all have perfect skin and teeth and are always standing in flattering light! You’ll get the hang of it in no time, son!
Now that’s taken care of, let’s consider this fat sloppy hit film The Hunger Games. Frankly, as a film, it’s nothing to tweet about. It’s one of these Hollywood adaptations of bestselling books written for the young, and you know what that means by now: plush budget, goofy young leads, elaborate production design that still manages to look like the most expensive herd of overdressed extras ever assembled, slavish attempts to please the fans by sticking to the book like glue, lumbering pace, strict lack of imagination all around. Gary Ross ( Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) is the director and he’s perfect for the job, a real studio plodder. No worries that he might try to put some sort of individual mark on the film, or interpret the material or anything! He couldn’t if he tried!
The plot’s okay if you like well-worn dystopian scenarios, and I do. I find it relaxing, watching movies about people-hunting. Something peaceful about it. There’s always so much care taken in these narratives to make sure it’s all structured as a test of mettle for a lead character or two who are going to survive, and everybody else is an abstraction, a hurdle, just there to help the lead(s) prove themselves or satisfy a convention. They might as well wear signs: “I’m the Test of Compassion, I die fifth,” “I’m the Black Guy, I die after saving the white lead, same as always,” etc.
Here’s the rundown, in case you’ve managed to avoid getting force-fed this plot summary already: dystopian future rulers of America run the annual Hunger Games featuring representative teens from each district in the nation who hunt and kill each other in a televised bloodsport contest till a lone survivor is crowned. Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from the impoverished Ozark-ish District 12, where she cuts a swath locally by hunting squirrels with bow and arrow and hitting ‘em all right in their beady little eyes every time. She volunteers to participate in the games to save her younger sister Primrose, who was chosen as a Hunger Games “tribute” in the televised “Reaping.” (Yeah, that’s right, their names are Katniss and Primrose Everdeen. Novelist Suzanne Collins sez, “You wanna make somethin’ of it?”)